Found posted on the Theologica Blog:

http://theologica.ning.com/profiles/blogs/a-sermon-for-holy-saturday-by

OUR FATHER AMONG THE SAINTS EPIPHANIUS

BISHOP OF CYPRUS

An Homily on the Burial of the Divine Body of Our

Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, on Joseph of

Arimathaea, and on the Lord’s Descent

Into Hades Which, After His Saving

Passion, Wondrously Ensued on

the Holy and Great Saturday

What thing is this? Today there is great silence upon the earth, great silence and stillness, verily great silence, for the King sleeps. The earth was frightened and became still, for God fell asleep in the flesh and raised up those who from ages past were sleeping. God died in the flesh and Hades shuddered. God slumbered briefly, and those in Hades He awoke.

Where now that so recent tumult, those cries, that clamour against Christ, O ye lawless? Where the populace, the oppositions, the ranks, the weapons, the spears? Where the kings, the priests, and the judicable judges? Where the lanterns, the swords, the boisterous shouts? Where the rabble, the jeering, the irreverent guard? Verily in truth and in truth verily, "the peoples have meditated things empty and vain."1

They have stumbled against the Cornerstone, Christ, and they were broken; they have hurled themselves against the solid Rock, and they were crushed, and their waves dispersed into foam. They struck against the invincible Anvil, and they were shattered. Upon the wood [of the Cross] they raised up the Rock of life, and It brought them down and slew them. They bound the great Sampson, the Sun, God, but He, having loosed the age-old bonds, destroyed the Philistines and iniquitous. God, the Sun, Christ set beneath the earth and wrought for the Jews lasting nocturnal darkness.

Today is salvation for men upon the earth and for those who from ages past are beneath the earth. Today is salvation for the world, the visible and the invisible. Twofold today is the Master’s coming, twofold the oeconomy, twofold the love of men, twofold the descent and also the condescension, twofold His visitation of men. From Heaven to earth, and from earth to the nether world God makes His way.

Ye that from ages past have fallen asleep, rejoice! Ye that sit in darkness and the shadow of death, receive the great Light! With the servants is the Master; with the dead is God; with the mortal is Life; with the guilty is the Guiltless; with those in darkness is the unwaning Light; with the captives is the Liberator; and with those in the nethermost is He that is above the very heavens.

Christ [came] upon earth, and we have believed; Christ is among the dead, let us descend with Him and behold those mysteries yonder! Let us come to know the wonders of the Hidden One hidden under the earth! Let us learn how and to whom the kerygma was manifested in Hades!

What then? Did God save absolutely all when He appeared in Hades? In no wise. But there also He saved them that believed. Yesterday oeconomy, today authority; yesterday the tokens of infirmity, today those of majesty; yesterday the tokens of humanity, today those of Divinity. Yesterday, He was slapped; today He smites the tenement of Hades with the lightning of His Divinity. Yesterday He was bound; today He binds the tyrant with infrangible bonds. Yesterday He was condemned; today He bestows liberty on the condemned. Yesterday Pilate’s ministers mocked Him; today Hades’ gatekeepers saw Him and trembled.

But hearken now to the sublime tale of Christ’s suffering! Hearken and offer praise, hearken and glorify, hearken and preach the wondrous works of God: how the Law retires; how grace blossoms forth; how the types pass away; how the shadows vanish; how the Sun fills the whole world; how the Old [Covenant] has grown old; how the New is established; how things of ancient times have perished; how things new have flourished.

There were two peoples on Sion at the time of Christ’s Passion, that of the Jews and that of the nations; and two kings, Pilate and Herod; and two high priests, Annas and Caiaphas. And this was so that simultaneously there be two Paschas, the one terminating, and Christ’s just beginning.

On that evening two sacrifices were performed, since two salvations, I mean of the living and of the dead, were accomplished. The Jew bound a lamb and sacrificed it by slaughter; but he from the nations [sacrificed] God in the flesh. The former gazed upon the shadow; the latter ran to God, the Sun. The Jews bound Christ and sent Him away; but they from the nations eagerly received Him. The first offered as sacrifice an animal victim; the second the body of God. The Jews commemorated their passing over from Egypt, whilst they from the nations heralded their deliverance from error.

And these things, where did they take place? In Sion, the city of the great King, where He "wrought salvation in the midst of the earth."2 In the midst of two living beings was Jesus, the Child of God, known,3 in the midst of the Father and the Spirit, two living Beings; Life from Life, he says, known as a living Being, and in the midst of angels and men He was born in a manger.

In the midst of two peoples He lies as the Cornerstone; in the midst of the Law and the prophets He is preached; in the midst of Moses and Elias He is seen upon the mount; in the midst of two thieves He is recognized as God by the grateful thief; in the midst of the present life and the future He sits as the eternal Judge; and today in the midst of the living and the dead He works a twofold life and salvation. Nay, again I say a twofold life, a twofold birth and also rebirth.

Listen now to the circumstances of Christ’s twofold birth and acclaim the wonders. An angel announced to Mary Christ’s maternal birth, and an angel announced to Mary of Magdala His awesome rebirth from the grave. At night Christ is born in Bethlehem, and at night in Sion He is reborn. Upon His birth He receives swaddling bands, and here also He is wound round with swaddling bands. When born He received myrrh, and at His burial He receives myrrh and aloes.

There Joseph was the name of Mary’s non-husband husband, but here Joseph of Arimathaea proved to be the burier of our Life. In Bethlehem in a manger the former took place, and the latter in the tomb as in a manger. First the shepherds were given news of the birth of Christ, and first the shepherds, Christ’s disciples, were given news of His rebirth from the dead. There the angel cried "Rejoice!" to the virgin, whilst here Christ, the Angel of Great Counsel, cried "Rejoice!" to the women.

At His first birth Christ after forty days entered the earthly Jerusalem, and the temple, and as firstborn He offered a pair of turtle-doves to God. But at His resurrection from the dead Christ after forty days ascended to the Jerusalem on high, from whence He departed not, and as the incorruptible First-born from the dead, in the true Holy of Holies He offered to God the Father our soul and body as two spotless turtle-doves; and like some Symeon the ancient, God the Father received Him uncircumscribably in to His embrace, into His own bosom.

If, however, thou hearest these things as though they were fables and not with faith, the unbroken seals of the Master’s tomb condemn thee with respect to Christ’s rebirth. For just as Christ was born from the Virgin whilst the natural gates of the virginal nature remained closed at the opening of the womb, so also Christ’s rebirth was wrought whilst the seals of the tomb were unbroken.

But as to how Christ, our Life, was placed in the tomb, and when, and by whom, let us listen to the sacred words.

"When even was come," he says, "there came a rich man of Arimathaea named Joseph, and went boldly unto Pilate and begged from him the body of Jesus."4 A mortal went in before a mortal, asking to receive God; the God of mortals he begs; clay stands before clay so as to receive the Fashioner of all! Grass asks to receive from grass the Heavenly Fire; the miserable drop seeks to receive from a drop the whole Abyss!

Who ever saw, who ever heard such a thing? A man grants to a man the Creator of men; a lawless man undertakes to surrender the Definition of the Law of [sic — I think they meant "to"] lawless men; a judge deprived of judgment permits the burial of the Judge of judges Who has been judged to death.

"When even was come," he says, "there came a rich man named Joseph." Truly was this man rich who carried away the entire compound hypostasis of the Lord. Verily was he rich, because he received the twofold nature of Christ form Pilate. He was rich indeed, because he was accounted worthy to carry off the priceless Pearl. Truly was he rich, for he bore away the Pouch overflowing with the treasure of Divinity. And how should that man not be rich who acquired the Life and Salvation of the world? How should Joseph not be rich, who received as a gift Him that sustains and rules all things?

"When even was come," for the Sun of Righteousness had then set into Hades. Wherefore, "There came a rich man named Joseph of Arimathaea, who was a secret [disciple] for fear of the Jews. And there came also Nicodemus, which at first came to Jesus by night."5 O hidden mystery of mysteries! Two secret disciples came to conceal Jesus in a tomb, thus teaching by His concealment the mystery concealed in Hades of the God concealed in the flesh.

Each one of these men surpassed the other in their affection for Christ. For Nicodemus proved his magnanimity by the myrrh and aloes, and Joseph proved worthy of praise by his daring and boldness before Pilate. For he, casting off all fear, went in unto Pilate and begged the body of Jesus.

Now when he went in he acted very shrewdly, so as to obtain his longed-for aim. Wherefore, he did not employ high-sounding and pompous words, lest Pilate be moved to wrath and he fail in his request. Nor did he say to him, "Give me the body of Jesus, Who but a short time ago darkened the sun, split the rocks asunder, shook the earth, opened the sepulchres [sic], and rent the veil of the temple!" Nothing of the kind said he to Pilate.

But what, then? A certain pitiful plea, in every wise lowly. "O judge, I have come to make of thee a trifling of Him that was by thee condemned, Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the poor, Jesus the homeless, Jesus the crucified, the bound, the shelterless, the Stranger, Who in a strange land is unknown, Jesus the contemptible, Who fore all was suspended [on the Cross]."

"Give me this Stranger, for what profit to thee is the body of this Stranger? Give me this Stranger, for from afar He came to this place to save a stranger, to a dark region He descended to draw up a stranger. Give me this Stranger, for He alone is a stranger. Give me this Stranger, whose country we know not, the strangers. Give me this Stranger, whose place and birth and ways we know not, the strangers. Give me this Stranger, Who lived in a strange land a strange life and existence. Give me this Stranger, whose generation and disposition we know not, the strangers. Give me this Stranger, Who had not where to lay His head. Give me this Stranger, Who as a homeless stranger in a strange land was born in a manger. Give me this Stranger, Who from the very manger fled Herod as a stranger. Give me this Stranger, Who from His very swaddling bands was a stranger in Egypt, Who has not city, no village, no home, no abode, no kindred, for this Stranger is found in foreign lands with His Mother.

Give me, O prince, this naked man on the Cross that I may cover Him that covered my nature’s nakedness. Give me Him that is both a dead man and God, that I may shroud Him that has hidden mine iniquities. Give me, O prince, this dead man Who buried my sin in Jordan. I entreat thee for a dead man Who suffered injustice from all, Who by a friend was sold, Who by a disciple was betrayed, Who by brethren was persecuted, Who by a slave was smitten.

For a dead man I interceded, Who was condemned by them that He freed from slavery, Who by them was given vinegar to drink. Who by them that He healed was wounded, Who by His own disciples was forsaken, Who of His own Mother was bereaved. For a dead man, O prince, I beseech, that homeless One Who was suspended on the Cross, for He has no father near Him upon the earth, no friend, no disciple, no kindred, no burier. Nay, He is alone, the Only-begotten of the Unique, God in the world, and none else save He."

When these things Joseph spake to Pilate on this wise, Pilate commanded that the all-holy body of Jesus be given him. And he went to the place called Golgotha and took God in the flesh down from the Cross and laid Him on the earth, naked God in the flesh, Him that was not merely a man.

Lo, He is beheld lying low Who drew all men on high. And He for a brief time is bereft of breath Who is the Life and Breath of all. He is seen bereft of eyes Who created the many-eyed beings. He lies prostrate Who is the resurrection of all. And God is slain in the flesh Who raised up the dead. The thunder of God the Word is now silent for an instant, and He is borne in the arms of men Who holds the earth in His hand.

Dost thou really, O Joseph, know Whom thou wast given when thou didst ask and receive? Dost thou truly know Whom thou didst carry when thou camest to the Cross and didst bring down Jesus? If in truth thou knowest Whom thou didst carry, thou art now verily become rich.

And how is it that thou givest burial to this most awesome body of God? Praiseworthy is thine ardour, but even more praiseworthy the disposition of thy soul. For dost thou not tremble, bearing in thine arms Him before Whom the Cherubim tremble? With what fear dost thou strip that Divine flesh of the loincloth? And how dost thou reverently restrain thine eye? Art thou not fearful when gazing upon and shrouding the nature of God’s flesh, He that surpasses nature?

Tell me, O Joseph, dost thou really bury towards the East a dead man that is the Dayspring of the East? And with thy fingers dost thou close the eyes of Jesus as befits the dead, nay, of Him that with His immaculate finger opened the eyes of the blind? And dost thou bind the mouth of Him that opened the mouth of the stam

Advertisements